Sooners tapping into San Diego talent
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Sunday, January 17, 2010
2/02/10 at 2:47 PM
It probably shouldn't be called a pipeline. Not yet.
But Oklahoma's 2010 recruiting class includes at least a mini-gusher of talent from the San Diego area.
In fact, if running back Brennan Clay, wide receiver Kenny Stills and defensive back Tony Jefferson are all signed with the Sooners come Feb. 3, it'll be the first time in more than a decade that Oklahoma has landed three California high school prospects.
Stills and Jefferson are already living in Norman — they arrived on Friday and will begin classes at OU on Tuesday. Clay won't arrive until this summer, but he was the first of the three to pledge a verbal commitment to play for the Sooners.
"It's pretty weird the way it all worked out, and it doesn't happen very often," Jefferson told the San Diego Union Tribune when he committed last month. "It's definitely going to be something that will go down in history. They don't really get guys from California. This is a huge step for them and for (San Diego football)."
Jefferson (from Eastlake High in Chula Vista, just south of San Diego) and Stills (from La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, about 45 minutes north) struck up a friendship through running back Dillon Baxter (a five-star San Diego product who has committed to USC).
"I knew who Tony was, just hearing his name and watching highlights of him and stuff," Stills said Friday in a telephone interview. "So we started hanging out like that and our relationship just kind of kept on building the last year and few months."
Contrary to what some think — they committed on the same day (Dec. 18), are both early enrollees and are rooming together — they did not collude as a package deal.
"Oklahoma was the best fit, for different reasons, for both of us," Stills said. "We both felt comfortable here and that helped with all kinds of stuff. But I think both of us kind of saw the opportunity and our mentality is just built to go after it and take advantage of the opportunity."
Stills, who strongly considered Florida, may have the best chance to play right away. He is reportedly the San Diego area's all-time receiving leader and is one of the Sooners' three five-star commitments, according to Scout.com.
He's a speedy 6-foot-2, 175 pounds but wants to add muscle during the next eight months so he can crack an OU lineup that, outside of record-setting Ryan Broyles, had little consistent production out of the receiver corps. Last season, Stills caught 45 passes for 914 yards (20.3 yards per catch) with 10 touchdowns.
"All the schools I looked at had these big voids in their receiver position," Stills said, "and that's what I was looking to do, to be able to come in and play as a true freshman and make an impact on the team — not just be a one- or two- or three-catch guy, but a guy that's averaging six or seven catches a game and scoring a few touchdowns."
Jefferson, who originally committed to Stanford, then switched to UCLA before visiting USC and choosing Oklahoma, came early because he thinks he can play right away, too. At 6-foot and 196 pounds, Jefferson is a punishing tackler who could play more than just safety. According to ESPNU, Jefferson is the Sooners' highest-rated 2010 recruit.
At Eastlake, he set a sophomore record for tackles, then, after he started platooning on offense, set a school record last year with 1,995 rushing yards (on an average of 8.9 yards per carry) and 25 touchdowns. In a limited defensive role, he made 51 tackles and two interceptions. As the Sooners try to replace both starting cornerbacks next year, opportunities at safety could emerge.
"He could definitely play running back in college, but he's one of the fiercest defensive players I've ever seen," said Jefferson's high school coach, John McFadden. "I think he's got a couple more inches to grow and I think he'll end up being probably about 235 or 240 by the time he's a senior. ... I've always seen him as an outside linebacker type, but he can definitely play the DB spot."
Clay, who was a teammate of Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier, has the potential to play as a freshman, too, at least based on his high school production.
As a junior, Clay became the first player in San Diego history to surpass 1,000 yards both rushing (1,486 yards and 20 TDs) and receiving (1,055 and six TDs). As a senior, he rushed for 2,026 yards and 27 TDs. OU's running back picture in 2010 includes returning starter DeMarco Murray, sophomores Jonathan Miller and Jermie Calhoun and two other incoming freshmen.
Oklahoma doesn’t make a living recruiting California,
but the Sooners have verbal commitments (and
two early enrollees) from three of the top players
in what has been called one of the San Diego area’s
best high school classes ever. A look at recent Californians
to sign with OU:
1998: DB Brent Jackson, Santa Monica *^; DB
Roy Williams, San Diego; WR Damian Mackey, San
2001: TE Chris Chester, Tustin
2002: CB Aaron Miller, Fresno; LB Lance Mitchell,
Los Banos *; LB Pasha Jackson, Hayward *
2003: CB Chijioke Onyenegecha, San Francisco *;
DB Donte Nicholson, Diamond Bar *; QB Tommy
Grady, Huntinton Beach
2006: QB Joey Halzle, Huntington Beach *
2007: LB Mike Reed, Sacramento * +
2008: DB David Sims, Oroville * +
2010: RB Brennan Clay, San Diego; WR Kenny
Stills, Encinitas; DB Tony Jefferson, Chula Vista
* arrived at OU from junior college
+ played high school ball in Florida but never played at OU
^ played high school ball in New York
John E. Hoover 581-8384
OU linebacker Lance Mitchell tackles Kansas State running back Darren Sproles as safety Donte Nicholson closes during an October 2004 game in Manhattan, Kan. Mitchell and Nicholson came to Oklahoma as recruits out of California. STEPHEN HOLMAN/Tulsa World file